Will Smith Gets Nick Cannon's Fists Flying

Inspired by 'Ali,' Cannon wrote and is starring in the boxing film 'The Hawk.'

CULVER CITY, California — Nick Cannon is one project closer to following in the footsteps of his idol Will Smith. The 25-year-old rapper/actor is slated to star in his own boxing flick, "The Hawk," just as his mentor pushed out an Oscar-nominated turn as legendary heavyweight champ Muhammad Ali in the 2001 biopic "Ali."

Cannon actually penned the script for "The Hawk," a drama fueled by the relationship between a father and son. Inspiration for the story came after the actor visited Smith while he was filming "Ali" nearly five years ago.

"I actually got into boxing because Will was doing ['Ali'], and I was hanging with him on set," Cannon explained. "I got with the boxing trainer who trained him, and we came up with some stuff together. It's gonna be real hot."

While shooting isn't set to start until 2006, the actor has been hard at work for months, training twice a day to get his body in fighting shape for the moment he actually steps into the ring. "It's a real intense project," he said.

Cannon is currently working on two movies slated for release in 2006: the gritty independent film "Weapons" and the Emilio Estevez-helmed "Bobby." In the latter, Cannon joins an all-star ensemble including Anthony Hopkins, Demi Moore, Martin Sheen, Sharon Stone, William H. Macy, Lindsay Lohan, Ashton Kutcher and Elijah Wood (see "Elijah Wood Joins Emilio Estevez's Robert Kennedy Project").

In "Bobby," a film that plays out the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, Cannon said he was honored to get the chance to work with another of his idols, singer/actor/humanitarian Harry Belafonte. "I love [Belafonte] and everything from the beginning of his career, like 'The Banana Boat Song (Day-O),' " Cannon said. "He's given me so much wisdom. My man is in his late 70s but he's still got it. I've learned so much [from him], so hopefully I can be like him one day."

"Bobby" and "Weapons" are just two of a slew of Cannon films due out next year. He already has the political thriller "The Beltway" in the can, playing an intern on Capitol Hill who unveils a dangerous plot headed up by the CIA. Cannon also stars as Forest Whitaker's brother in the indie gambling drama "Even Money" and lends his voice to the animated adventure "Monster House," due July 21.

As for music, Cannon is finally gearing up to release his second album, Stages, early next year. According to the singer, he'll release the Kanye West-produced "My Wife" (see "Nick Cannon Goes 'Wild' With Kanye, Ying Yang Twins, Common"), but not before he puts out "Are You a Dime," tentatively set to drop as early as January.

"It's a big party club record and it's got an old-school sample in it," Cannon said of the track, which he also produced. "We're doing contests all over the country looking for the most beautiful, well-rounded woman we can find, so that's how we gonna do it real big in '06."

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